How Long Did It Take To Write Your Favorite Book?

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how long did it take to write your favorite book?

NaNoWriMo sets would-be authors on a quest to write a 50,000-word book in 30 days. That’s an average of 1,667 words a day. Not a bad clip, right? Of course, that’s the first draft. The ensuing rewriting and editing phases can amount to considerably more time spent on your project. So how long does it actually take to complete a ready-for-publication book?

This infographic might help put things in perspective, considering that famous works of literature, of varying lengths and esteem, took anywhere from three days to 16 years to complete. And book length does not always correlate to time spent writing.

“How Long Did it Take to Write the World’s Most Popular Books?,” published by Printerinks.com, shows that, at 16,470 words in length, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde took a mere six days to write – Robert Louis Stevenson had to write 2,745 words per day on average to finish the book within this timeframe – while J. D. Salinger averaged 20 words a day to finish his 73,000-word classic The Catcher in the Rye over a 10-year span.

As you whiz through your novel in a matter of days, wondering if it could possibly be this easy, or struggle, week by agonizing week, wondering if it’s worth the fight, this infographic may help you recognize that every book has its journey, and every journey has its path. Yours may take a month, a year, a decade … who knows? Don’t give up, your Song of Ice and Fire will emerge as long as you keep writing.

how long did it take to write your favorite book?

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20 COMMENTS

  1. Very interesting! Thanks for the infographic.

    I believe there’s an accidental error with the word count mentioned for The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You’ve stated it’s over 58,000 words, but a few sources I checked show the word count to be just under 27,000 words, which matches the math you’ve listed at 4,482 words per day. Regardless, 27k in 6 days is still impressive!

    • Or a little under 10,000 words a day. Except the novel is not 58,000 words, but less than half that, precise count undetermined. But, yes, still impressive.

  2. Now I’ve written only four books in my life, all non-fiction, but it’s my strong sense that if you deconstruct the writing effort, eliminating all the procrastination and BS, there’s rarely more than six months of ACTUAL WRITING ever involved. Sometimes it takes less time: my first book took 93 days to write, for example, because I stupidly agreed to deliver the 96,000 word manuscript in 90 days.

  3. My memoir, the Little Flying Dutchman, took almost 1.5 years. This included the editing and publishing. Pretty soon, I will start again for it was a good ‘memory’.

  4. I can write a book of stories with life lessons attached in 5 to 6 days, but it takes my wife about 2 years to correct all of the miss spellings and poor grammar.

    When a granddaughter has note cards and asks me questions while I talk to Dragon Naturally Speaking, it goes even faster and my wife has a bigger job.

    When writing a technical book concerning building disaster-resistant housing, it takes several years because I have to run tests to prove concepts. My wife can usually keep up with me when I am working on a technical book.

  5. The most frightening statistic is that, I think, all of those books were written long hand, without the advantage of using a computer to edit. However, the fact that we can edit so easily could slow the finish down while perfectionism tends to creep in (at least, that’s my excuse!)

  6. Love this! Great perspective!

    So, I wrote the (very:) rough draft of Buttkickers, my second book, in one day: 11-11-11. I had decided that was how I wanted to spend that day… it was a fun way to get the sh*t draft DONE. The draft of my first book had taken most of a year to write.

    Both books are now sorely in need of editing; they’re dated now, and fortunately my writing has improved a bit. Also, my surname has changed, so that’s another reason to do new editions!

    The thing I most want to say to all of my fellow perfectionists is that although I’ve stressed over words and even chapters I’ve wished I had done differently (or not at all), it felt SO GOOD to just get them OUT there. People have been helped by reading them, and that’s why I wrote them – not to demonstrate my writing chops. So, I know there’s a lot of wisdom about doing it right the first time… I get it – but seriously, I might still be on the draft if I’d thought that way. Grateful I got them out, and got out of my own way!

    Today I’m an imperfectionist, and proud.
    Just one perspective in a sea of perspectives on this.. oh, and thanks for the infographic, too.

  7. My favorite book? Well, three plus years (112,333 wrds) for my debut, and last ever, book. Not yet released, but will be within next couple of months.

  8. I am going to sound odd here as my favourite novel took only three weeks to write. Others have taken years, one three and a half years but my favourite took only three weeks. It is short, as you can imagine but I must have been “In the Zone” as I still cannot fault it. Fifteen years later.

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